Submitted by Mitchell Ball, Ambassador, South Florida
By Sara Shell, Forum Publishing Group
August 23, 2013
On a recent Thursday evening, more than 50 people turned out to play pickleball at Pine Island Park in Davie. The hockey rink-turned-playing court had a line of people waiting for their turn at the sport.
"Having to wait is a good problem to have," said Mitchell Ball, ambassador of the USA Pickleball Association of South Florida.
Pickleball, which is a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton, has grown immensely. According to the sport's official website, it has become a popular draw among seniors and has more than 200,000 players nationwide.
Ball has been hosting events to help the sport grow locally. That included a recent pickleball clinic and demonstration at Stan Goldman Memorial Park in Hollywood. About 35 people came out to learn about the sport. And because it had such a great reception from community members and officials, Ball has helped implement open play days from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.
"This will be great for Hollywood," said Eric Brown, Hollywood's assistant parks and athletics manager. "It was my first time seeing the game live, [and] I believe seniors and others will really enjoy this game."
Brown said he picked up a paddle and played in a game and had a great time.
"I look forward to seeing [pickleball] go to the next level in Hollywood," he said.
The sport is played with paddles and perforated plastic balls on a court with a lowered net. Scoring is similar to that of badminton.
Ball said the draw is often the simplicity in learning the game, but it can become very competitive.
"We play very hard," he said of the regular players in Davie. "[Pickleball's] become big down here because so many seniors that live and play up north want to play when they visit here in the winter."
Ball brought the sport to the area after learning to play in 2012. At the time, the only year-round courts were in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Now, since forming clinics and open play in Davie and Tamarac in January, there are 81 players.
"I'd like to eventually have enough cities and teams to have inter-city tournaments and teams playing each other," Ball said.
Local pickleball enthusiast Michael Dippel said "it's a game that any age can play."
"Once it gets around town that the out-of-staters have a place to play, it's really going to grow," Dippel said.
Ball is planning another clinic for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Golden Isles Tennis Center in Hallandale Beach.
For more information, email Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Shell can be reached at email@example.com.
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